The Tran-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement between the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries, seemingly is dead, at least for now. It will not be approved by the current Congress. Therefore, it is up to President-elect Donald Trump to revive it during his Administration.
It’s true that President-elect Trump has said that TPP is a “disaster” and he has declared that he will withdraw from the agreement on his first day in office. But other than a few bullet points on his websitethe President-elect has never publicly explained why he does not like this particular trade deal, which looks to be a win for entrepreneurs, creators, consumers, and the global economy.
As I discussed in a June 2016 blog, TPP would expand global trade by eliminating roughly 18,000 tariffs that member countries have imposed on imports from the United States, lifting millions of people out of poverty around the world. By removing these trade barriers imposed by foreign countries and others imposed by the United States, TPP would allow consumers and entrepreneurs in all member countries to enjoy more economic activity and lower prices than what the status quo offers.
From an intellectual property (IP) perspective, TPP appears to require adherence to strong protections of IP rights in member countries. This would help artists and entrepreneurs around the globe to earn a return on their creative works and the labor that makes them possible. According to a September 2016 report by the Department of Commerce and the Patent and Trademark Office, in 2014, 45 million jobs (or 30% of the jobs in the U.S. economy) either directly or indirectly were generated by IP-intensive industries. In the same year, IP-intensive industries added $6.6 trillion of economic activity, which is roughly 38% of GDP.
TPP addresses all aspects of IP, including copyright, patents, trade secrets, and trademarks. The IP chapter of TPP aims to do the following:
- Improves strong and balanced protection of rights and enforcement of laws;
- Bolsters incentives for the development of, and trade related to, IP-intensive products;
- Addresses common threats, including piracy, counterfeiting, and other related infringements, as well as misappropriation (including cyber theft) of trade secrets;
- Promotes transparent, efficient, and fair regulatory systems, including for patent and trademark application and registration;
- Promotes development of and access to innovative and generic medicines;
- Facilitates legitimate digital trade, including in creative content; and
- Prevents the spread of overly-restrictive geographical indication policies, including by safeguarding the rights of prior trademark owners and rules clarifying the use of generic terms.
A 2014 report from NDP Analytics estimates that TPP would increase U.S. exports by $26 billion, U.S. GDP by $11 billion, and American jobs by 48,000 with roughly two-thirds of these benefits coming from IP-intensive industries. This increase in U.S. exports would have direct spillover effects for the other 11 member countries, leading to an estimated $6.4 billion increase in GDP and 68,240 additional jobs. Of course, these figures do not include the increases in economic activity and job creation that will occur among member countries nor do they include the increases in U.S. imports.
Additional economic activity and development within member countries would not be the only benefit flowing from a stronger IP framework; mutual gains from trade are much higher with transactions that contain strong protections of IP rights rather than weak protections. Therefore, member countries which currently have weak IP protections according to the Chamber of Commerce’s Global IP Center International Index, such as Peru, Chile, and Mexico, will incentivize creation and innovation within their own countries. And also, other developing economies, which trade with TPP countries, will recognize the gains from trade and be encouraged to adopt similar IP rights protections.
Gains from trade are mutually beneficial but not necessarily equal. If TPP is adopted, the United States would benefit from the positive externality of robust IP rights protections in other countries and from lower trade barriers with countries in the Pacific Rim. When more countries around the world have strong IP rights protections, American creators and entrepreneurs have a greater incentive to innovate because their creations are less likely to be stolen overseas. However, developing countries, which, on the whole, would substantially upgrade their IP rights protections with the adoption of TPP, likely will enjoy an even higher marginal benefit than the U.S. because their economies have not experienced as much innovation as countries with strong IP rights protections in place. In general, and all else equal, developing countries grow faster than developed countries when there is an expansion in global trade.
Perhaps, the President-elect views the trade agreement as problematic because he considers global trade as an “us versus them” phenomenon. In other words, he may consider global trade as a zero-sum game, when, in actuality, it is a variable-sum game. For example, even if Vietnam benefits more from TPP than the United States, this does not mean the U.S. loses. Both countries are better off, even if the marginal benefit might be greater for one country over another.
President-elect Trump should revive TPP during his administration. It is vital that this trade agreement be adopted to encourage the creation of jobs and to foster greater innovation and investment in the United States and in the Pacific Rim. Mr. Trump’s campaign primarily focused on creating jobs in the United States. TPP is a win for American workers and consumers because it would expand economic activity around the world, increasing American imports and exports.
In 2014, U.S. imports and exports from IP-intensive industries were valued at $1.4 trillion and $842 billion, respectively. Those values likely would increase if IP rights are enhanced around the world. (NDP Analytics projects that TPP will increase annual U.S. exports by up to $26 billion.)
With the adoption of TPP, President-elect Trump could help spur the economy, which is clearly a top priority. Let’s hope that Mr. Trump changes his mind about TPP.